Givati the hills of the Negev

Yatir Forest in Israel’s Negev – Easy Day Trip From Jerusalem

Yatir Forest from the Visitor Centre
Looking out at the Yatir Forest in the Negev gives new meaning to the “Green Line”.

Try an easy day trip or tiyul from the Jerusalem area; you’ll find some very special flowers and trees to see and walking trails to explore in the Yatir Forest, located in the northern part of Israel’s Negev.

Funny, that before visiting Israel, I always pictured the Negev, in my mind as only a large desert or wasteland area. I had no idea of the variety of landscapes, communities and life forms, which in fact exist in this geographical area. Both the Yatir Forest and the nearby LaHav Forest, provide a very clear visual definition of the “Green Line” of the Israeli settlement areas quite unlike the true desert scenes we have come to expect.

Givati in the Negev
Givati -the guardians of the Negev both the hills and the Southern Brigade guarding Israel.

The Jewish National Fund  (JNF), in 1964,planted this forest with a variety of trees from the standard coniferous trees such as the Aleppo Pine and Cypress, with a more diverse group of broad leafed trees, as well as vineyards and various shrubs. Planted in a semi-arid region, this forest has thrived, bringing ecological improvements, recreation and has contributed to agricultural developments.

Pistachio Tree

A day trip from Jerusalem to the Yatir Forest will show you many of the beautiful trees growing in the Negev region.

One of the the broad leafed trees which I found particularly appealing was the “Pistacia Atlantica” or “Atlantic Pistachio” with some lovely pink fruit glowing like little gems from among the dark green leaves. This tree has Biblical links, associated with qualities such as strength and sturdiness. It is commonly known as “elah” in Israel and is linked to the “Valley of Elah”, where David went forth and killed the giant Goliath. The valley received its name from the Pistachio trees growing there.

Helmonit Gdola

At this time of year, lucky visitors to the forest can spot a very special wildflower called the” Helmonit Gdola” or “Sternbergia lutea”, which resembles an autumn crocus. The lively yellow petals springing up from the hard ground , scattered in small clusters or individual plants dotting the hillside are a delight to the eyes. This flower only blooms for a short 10 day period but the leaves and bulbs remain.

We were lucky to be there to see the flowers in full bloom. It is almost like the story of Israel, a modern thriving nation springing up from the hard ground of the Eastern Mediterranean; tiny but beautiful, thrusting forth in glowing yellow to provide a beacon of light in the forest.

This information board gives all the details about the Helmonit Gdola for those who can read the ivrit.

After visiting the Yatir Forest we drove to the ancient synagogue at Anim and then finished up our day trip visiting Sussia and exploring the rediscovered ancient ruins and very special community located there.

Autumn Crocus or Autumn Daffodil flower of Israel
The small but powerful flower with bright yellow petals burst forth from the hardened ground in the Yatir Forest.

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